THE quit-smoking drug Champix has been available to smokers for years, but has remained controversial ever since an American study found it provoked suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
A new study by University of Adelaide PhD student Kristin Carson has found that Champix is safe and significantly improves a person's chance of quitting.
“In our Adelaide-based study, we found that people who took Champix in conjunction with attending counselling had better control over their cravings and had lower levels of anxiety while quitting, compared to patients who only attended counselling," Carson says.
"And, after the 12-week program, 31% of the patients on Champix had quit smoking compared to 21% of the patients who attended counselling only."
Her study followed 392 smokers admitted into hospital with a smoking related illness.
A small number of patients reported side effects such as nausea, abnormal dreams, headaches and insomnia, however no one reported having suicidal thoughts.
"We were actually surprised that we had no patients with serious cardiac events or suicidal ideations," she said.
She said that counselling is an important part of the quitting process, whether Champix is involved or not. The counselling program in the study was a 'call-back' program, where counsellors will engage the patient - rather than the other way around.
"We had 21% of people quit long term, just with the counselling. That's compared to about 3% of unassisted quit attempts in hospital - that itself is a huge result."
Her study comes in the lead up to World No Tobacco Day on Sunday 31 May.
“Smoking accounts for 15% of all deaths, 80% of all lung cancers and is responsible for the greatest disease burden in Australia,” says Ms Carson, who is also a Senior Medical Research Scientist at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital's Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research.
Carson says smokers looking to quit should weigh up their options and choose a method that’s best for them.
“There are lots of options for people who want to quit smoking and the best place to start is cancersa.org.au/quitline. However, for those who are finding it particularly hard to quit, Champix should be considered,” says Ms Carson.
This research was published in the journals Nicotine and Tobacco Research and Thorax, and was funded by the Department of Respiratory Medicine at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital.